“Tatar mass media does not live up to their high rank”: why local ethnic press lagging behind?

“There are more than 5,5 million Tatars. Maybe there are 15 million of us," such statement was made on the eve of the online conference “Tatar Periodicals: Retrospective and Future”, organised by the Tatars of St. Petersburg. The speakers also wished that the Tatars would have their own star experts and presenters who could take a multi-million audience from Dud or Gordon. As the correspondent of Realnoe Vremya noted, despite the attempts of some speakers to set a polemical tone, the discussion eventually failed. The editors-in-chief of Tatar-language publications talked less about problems and more about their merits.

“We can only envy and reproach ourselves”

The online conference “Tatar Periodicals: Retrospective and Future” was held on 12 December. It was organised by the Piter Tatar portal, the club of Tatar journalists of St. Petersburg and the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Tatarstan in St. Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast. Earlier, as reported by Realnoe Vremya, St. Petersburg Tatars held the II St. Petersburg Tatar Media Forum via Zoom.

It was assumed that the conference participants, including publicists, publishers and editors-in-chief of Tatar publications in Russia, would discuss the problems of the Tatar press. It is worth noting that most of the speakers spoke Tatar. Moderators Katifa (Yekaterina) Gaynetdinova and Danil Safarov translated the main points of the speakers into Russian after each speech.

The conference was dedicated to the 115th anniversary of the first Tatar-language newspaper Nur , which was published by Ataulla Bayazitov. It is noteworthy that the publication was published not in Kazan, but in St. Petersburg. Already after Nur in 1905, the first Tatar newspaper of Kazan “Kazan Mukhbire” began to be published. And in 1906, there already appeared already Yulduz, Azat, Bayanel-khak, Tan Yulduzy, Azat Khalyk and others.

Moreover, as publicist Rimzil Valeev noted, the Nur newspaper and other publications were not funded by the state. Ataulla Bayazitov himself for many years sought permission from the authorities to publish his brainchild.

“They covered a wide cross-section of public life, not leaving any topic without attention. Their circulation reached up to half a million copies, they were quite self-sufficient. We can only envy and reproach ourselves how we now cover today's life. We can reproach ourselves for the reservedness, for our lag in content, for a decline in circulation," said Valeyev, trying to set the tone for further discussion.

Also, the district newspapers “quickly gave up” when they were transferred to dubbing. Another problem is the low salaries of journalists.

Besides, according to him, despite the presence of 130,000 students, there is not a single youth newspaper in the Tatar language in Tatarstan. There are no tourist, sports, economic Tatar-language newspapers and magazines. Valeyev sees the way out in the development of multimedia journalism and called the resource Matbugat.ru by Danila Safarov as an example.

“The Tatar media are indifferent to their ethnic identity," said Rimzil Salikhovich. “They do not strengthen [ethnic] identity, do not cover culture, do not protect Tatars and Tatarstan. They don't live up to their high rank. It turns out that we do not reach the level of 1913.

Unanswered questions

Ramis Latypov, editor-in-chief of the Tatar edition of the Tatar-inform news agency, identified another sore point of the Tatar press — the lack of personnel. He drew attention to that this year, when enrolling to the journalism department of the KFU, a Tatar group was not formed, as it happened before.

During the conference, another problem was revealed — the financing of publications. Some participants of the forum believe that the Tatar media should definitely be non-state-funded — so they maintain their independence from the authorities. Others have noticed that even in private publications, nothing prevents sponsors from interfering in the editorial policy, which affects the content.

It should be noted that the discussion as such did not work out, despite the rather polemical statements of Valeyev. Most of the speakers tried to avoid painful questions or mentioned them slightly. But they proudly talked about the achievements of their publications or quoted classics.

“As Lenin said, 'the newspaper is not only a collective propagandist and collective agitator, but also a collective organizer,' — thus the chairman of the club of Tatar journalists of St. Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast, Zaria Khasanova, began her speech.

Besides, the questions that were asked in the chat for participants of the online meeting often remained unanswered. For example, the question of the size of salaries of journalists hung in the air. It was also never found out whether the leaders of state-owned publications receive instructions from the top, what topics and how to cover them, whether these media outlets have undesirable topics and personalities. And also whether Tatar-inform provides a platform for Bashkir scientists and public figures who adhere to their opinion regarding the “north-western dialect of the Bashkir language”.

To the problem of the census

After the forum, Realnoe Vremya received responses from Fail Fatkhtdinov, editor-in-chief of the Ufa newspaper “Kyzyl Tan” (founders — the government and State Assembly-Kurultay of Bashkortostan). However, they raised even more questions from your correspondent.

The topic of the population census in Bashkiria remains very difficult in the region. Many Tatar public figures believe that the data of the last censuses in the republic were falsified: in their opinion, some Tatars were recorded in Bashkirs. In this regard, the correspondent of Realnoe Vremya was interested in whether the Tatar-language newspaper “Kyzyl Tan”, which remains the “mouthpiece of the authorities” of Bashkiria, covers the issue of the upcoming census and the “north-western dialect of the Bashkir language”.

“A socio-political publication cannot stay away from the important and serious state event. Our main task is outreach — to develop in the readers a positive attitude towards the census, promote participation of citizens and provide information, truthful information about themselves and their households. To this end, the newspaper printed stories of the settlements densely populated by the Tatar population," Fatkhutdinov replied.

As for the pressure, possible or imaginary, of the regional leadership on the Tatar-language media of Bashkiria, the editor-in-chief of “Kyzyl Tan” said that “the state authorities do not interfere in the editorial policy and activities of the newspaper, but only support morally and financially”.

“There are more than 5,5 million Tatars. Perhaps, there are 15 million of us”

By the way, other speakers also spoke about the upcoming census 2021. Ravil Khusnutdinov, editor-in-chief of the Tatar Rukhy newspaper (Magnitogorsk) and executive director of the Congress of the Tatars of Chelyabinsk Oblast, said that his region is the third largest in the number of Tatars after Tatarstan and Bashkortostan.

“In Chelyabinsk Oblast, according to 2010, there were 180,000 people, and according to 2002 — 220,000. What happened to 40,000 Tatars? I think there are more than 5,5 million of us in the country. Perhaps, there are 15 million of us — I would like that. The more often we repeat this figure (15 million), the more realistic it will be," the South Ural speaker shared unexpected ideas.

Khusnutdinov also wished that in the first lines of the document “Tatars: Strategy of Action”, it was written: “Tatars are historically the main state-forming people of Russia, speaking two languages — Tatar and Russian”.

Rimzil Valeyev, concluding the conference, called it a “creative quick meeting”, which, to his regret, is no longer used in Tatmedia. He advised to participate in the census through “State Services”.

“We need interlocutors, commentators who can speak sharply on a relevant topic. We have editors with independent thinking, stars. Why should we give Yury Dud and Dmitry Gordon millions of our listeners? Can't we raise our Pozner?" the publicist asked questions.

By Timur Rakhmatullin